Tuesday, August 9, 2022

Teetering on the Brink of Catastrophe


Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant

The mind-bending absurdities of the imperial propagandists in western state-controlled media are reaching unprecedented heights in recent weeks, as the inevitability of Russian victory in Ukraine becomes increasingly evident.


Numerous reports in various empire media mouthpieces are now spinning a ludicrous yarn that Russia is planning to destroy Europe's largest nuclear power plant in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine, and thereby unleash an ecological disaster upon the planet.


Never mind that the Russians control both the plant itself and the region surrounding it. The desperate empire propagandists would have you believe Russia has not only been launching artillery strikes against the massive Soviet-era plant, but has even wired it with explosives.


Never mind that the local populace is overwhelmingly Russian or desires to formally become so, nor that the prevailing winds would spread deadly radiation over massive swathes of Russia.


No, we are expected to believe that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is so insanely self-destructive that it would seriously do such a thing!


And therefore Putin and his people must be destroyed, once and for all, to save the planet.


Where does it go from here?


Now that the narrative-shaping agents of the Empire of Lies have turned the dial of mendacious absurdity up to eleven, what comes next?


I dread to contemplate the likelihood that a substantial percentage of the citizenry of the western world may actually be persuaded to believe such transparent atrocity tales.


I dread even more to contemplate the degree to which the mediocre minds in positions of power within the Empire of Lies are being successfully persuaded that these absurdities have a basis in reality, and that therefore “all options must be on the table” to deal with the “existential threat” Russia allegedly poses to human civilization.


Make no mistake, it is true that the overwhelming Russian military victory in Ukraine constitutes an existential threat to the moribund North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Mother of All Proxy Armies NATO built in Ukraine over the previous decade was specifically designed to arrest Russian resurgence, and to effect regime change in Russia that would once and for all eliminate from the international scene the vexing influence of Vladimir Putin and his defiance of imperial aspirations and edicts.


It must be clearly understood that the defeat of NATO’s proxy force in Ukraine will be interpreted throughout much of Europe – and throughout the world, for that matter – as an explicit defeat of the American Empire. It signals the end of US global hegemony, and, in the eyes of much of the world, it will enshrine Putin and Russia as the David who fearlessly stood up to challenge and then summarily defeat the supposedly unbeatable Goliath.


Above all, it must be understood that the defeat of NATO’s designs in Ukraine means the defeat of NATO.

And this is perfectly understood in the various loci of western power.


It will also mean the end of the European Union, which has been erected on the illusory power of NATO as an indomitable military force.


This is why the empire-at-all-costs cult in the western world is now consumed by an existential crisis – one that is pushing it towards the serious contemplation of radical last-ditch efforts to preserve its power and relevance in a rapidly changing environment of global geopolitical realities.


I therefore increasingly fear that western popular opinion is being molded and primed to support heretofore unthinkable extreme “preemptive actions” against Russia.


We are teetering on the brink of catastrophe.

But it’s not the one posed by the patently absurd notion that Russia, on the cusp of a great military victory in Ukraine, is seriously planning to destroy the largest nuclear power plant in Europe in order to assuage the humiliation of defeat in the imaginary war western propagandists have been selling to their citizenry for the past several months.


We must realize that there are indeed forces within the halls of rapidly evaporating imperial power who are ready and willing to launch a decapitating nuclear first-strike against Russia in order, as they apparently believe in their twisted minds, to somehow snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.


We must awaken to the very real risk that, like Lucifer cast down from heaven to earth in Milton’s Paradise Lost, those whose wealth, power, influence, and very identity depend on the perpetuation of the American Empire may very well be willing to do what they are now projecting upon Russia: to salve the humiliation of defeat with a scorched earth policy that could render the entire northern hemisphere of our planet a wasteland for generations to come.


"Is this the region, this the soil, the clime,"

said then the lost Archangel, "this the seat

that we must change for Heaven?

This mournful gloom for that celestial light?


"Be it so, since he who now is sovereign can dispose and bid

what shall be right: farthest from Him is best.

Whom reason hath equaled, force hath made supreme

above his equals.


"Farewell, happy fields where joy for ever dwells!

Hail, horrors! hail, infernal world!

And thou, profoundest Hell, receive thy new possessor –

one who brings a mind not to be changed by place or time.


"The mind is its own place, and in itself

can make a Heaven of Hell; a Hell of Heaven.

What matter where, if I be still the same?

And what should I be, all but less than he

whom thunder hath made greater?


"Here at least we shall be free.

The Almighty hath not built here for his envy,

and will not drive us hence:

Here we may reign secure; and, in my choice,

To reign is worth ambition, though in Hell.


"Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven."


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Sunday, August 7, 2022

The Mostly Forgotten 1857 Utah War

General Albert Sidney Johnston, US Army, Utah Territory, 1858


A scarcely remembered and yet very significant event that occurred in the years leading up to the US Civil War was the so-called "Utah War", which took place from the latter half of 1857 into the first half of 1858.


Frequently referred to as "Buchanan's Blunder" (after then-US President James Buchanan), it was one of the most notorious examples in US history of a president ginning up a "rally 'round the flag" war to distract the populace from domestic strife.


The so-called "Mormons" (members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) had been driven from Missouri to Illinois, and following the assassination of their founding prophet Joseph Smith, were compelled to leave the United States altogether to escape persecution.


The vanguard, led by Brigham Young, arrived in the valley of the Great Salt Lake in July 1847. The area was still part of Mexico at the time. Young was passionately encouraged by many who had already been there to continue to California, but he refused, saying he wanted to settle the Saints in "a place no one else wants."


Brigham Young is recorded to have told his people, in 1847, that if the "Gentiles" would leave the Saints alone for ten years, they would become strong enough to defy any attempt to drive them out again.


Ten years was exactly how long they got.


During their decade of peace, Brigham Young sent out colonizing parties to every habitable locale within about a 300 mile radius of the Salt Lake Valley – including my town of Cedar City, on the southern rim of the Great Basin, 240 miles to the south, settled in 1851.


By 1857, the population of the territory had grown to about 35,000. Thousands had emigrated from Scandinavia and the British Isles – including my ancestors, who were impoverished English factory workers from the ghettos of Manchester, as immortalized by Friedrich Engels in his pre-communism classic The Condition of the Working Class in England.


The casus belli of the "Utah War" was erected on a foundation of tall tales spun by corrupt federal territorial officials who, amid lurid personal scandal, slithered back to Washington to breathlessly report that the "Mormons" were in a state of "rebellion" against the US government.


The federal appointees were simply upset that, given the dynamics of the organization they were up against – allegedly licentious polygamy-practicing religious fanatics led by a theocratic dictator (or so it was framed) – they simply wielded no real power in the Utah Territory.


And, of course, they were, as a class, considerably less than “morally upright”.


My sense of the matter is that few in Washington were overly persuaded by the story of a bona fide insurrection in Utah, but President Buchanan, drowning in unprecedented internal strife, seized the propitious opportunity presented by the fabricated "dossier'', and ordered elite regiments of the US Army – 2500 troops in total – to march to Utah to "put down the Mormon rebellion."


The troops set out for Utah from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on July 18, 1857. The famous territorial lawman Porter Rockwell, fulfilling a federal mail contract, just happened to be there; he learned of their plans, and raced back to Utah to inform Brigham Young.


Orrin Porter Rockwell


Orrin Porter Rockwell was, in many ways, the Forrest Gump of the Old American West. He repeatedly shows up at significant junctures in Old West history, often with an important role to play. He was also a universally feared Deputy Marshal of the Utah Territory, who is reputed to have slain upwards of 80 outlaws over the course of his multi-year tenure.


Later in life, after a night of whiskey drinking in Salt Lake City, and while walking back to his hotel with friends, he was accosted by some hostile family members of an outlaw he had shaded, and was accused of being a cold-blooded murderer.


Rockwell famously replied, “I never killed any man that didn’t need killing.”


The phrase later inspired a line in the classic John Wayne film, True Grit.


Rockwell arrived in Salt Lake City on July 24, 1857 – ten years to the day since the Mormons entered the valley. But the city was almost devoid of inhabitants, most of whom had travelled to the top of Big Cottonwood Canyon to celebrate their decennial anniversary in the valley.


Rockwell raced up the canyon and informed Brigham Young of the news. Young immediately called the large gathering to order, related the facts of the matter, assessed the sentiments of the Saints, and resolved that they would not be driven again from the towns and cities they had built.


Preparations to resist the army commenced immediately.


They quickly assembled a small mounted force, whose strategy was simple: with strict orders to avoid bloodshed, they were to operate as raiding guerrillas; to burn all the grass ahead of and behind the Army's supply trains; to confiscate their cattle, mules, and horses whenever possible, and to burn the supply wagons.


In the succinct order of Brigham Young, “Defeat the US Army, but do not shed blood.”


Within several days, scouting parties were dispatched to locate and discreetly follow the US Army, and send back regular reports to the valley.


The troops ultimately marshalled to “Defeat the US Army” never consisted of more than about 150 cavalrymen. They called themselves the “Nauvoo Legion”, and to a man they were expert horsemen and outdoorsmen with unrivaled knowledge of the mountainous terrain.


This handful of young Mormon cavalry was led in the field by the famously iconoclastic duo of Lot Smith and Porter Rockwell.


Captain Lot Smith


Operating often at night, they raided the supply train camps, drove off the wagon mules, captured most of the cattle (which they herded back to the Salt Lake Valley), burned most of the wagons, and never killed a single US soldier nor suffered a casualty themselves.


My favorite account from the campaign was recorded by Captain Lot Smith, who, after having captured and burned several wagon trains already, came upon another:


“On the morning following, we met another train … we disarmed the teamsters, and I rode out and met the captain about a half-mile away. I told him that I came on business. He inquired the nature of it. I demanded his pistols.


“He replied, ‘By God, sir, no man ever took them yet, and if you think you can, without killing me, try it.’


“We were all the time riding towards the train, with our noses about as close together as two Scotch terriers would have held theirs – his eyes flashing fire. I couldn’t see mine.


“I told him that I admired a brave man, but that I didn’t like blood. ‘You insist on my killing you, which will only take a minute, but I don’t want to do it.’


“We had by this time reached the train. I told them to hurry up and get their things out, and take two wagons, for we wanted to go on. Simpson (of the infantry) begged me not to burn the train while he was in sight; said that it would ruin his reputation as a wagon master.


“I told him not to be so squeamish, that the trains burn very nicely, I had seen them before, and that we hadn’t time to be ceremonious. We then supplied ourselves with provisions, set the wagons afire, and rode on.”


By the time the Army arrived on the outskirts of Fort Bridger, Wyoming, winter had arrived in force and stopped them in their tracks.


As the coup de grace, the Mormons (who purchased the fort in 1855) burned it to the ground right before the Army arrived.


The army barely survived the winter, and had to endure what they viewed as the ultimate insult of Brigham Young's offer of provisions (which the Army refused).


They resumed their advance the following spring.


Just east of the Wasatch Mountains, the Army was compelled to descend Echo Canyon, a miles-long narrow passage bordered by steep red sandstone walls. There was no other way. Interstate 84 and the Union Pacific Railroad were likewise compelled to the take the same route as the only viable passage through the Wasatch.


Echo Canyon, Utah


Apprised by spies of where the Army would camp each night, a couple squads of the Nauvoo Legion built long strings of campfires on the buttes behind and in advance of the Army’s designated campsite, and then continually rotated troops from one to the next to feed the fires, making noisy demonstrations at each stop along the way.


The US troops below became convinced they were up against probably thousands of fanatical “Mormons” who would slaughter them in an instant at the order of Brigham Young.


It was first-class military deception.


Meanwhile, Young sent representatives to the advancing force, and shrewdly negotiated an agreement whereby the army was permitted to enter the valley, but could not encamp themselves any nearer than 40 miles from Salt Lake City.


Eventually the Army passed through a temporarily evacuated Salt Lake City, and travelled 50 miles to the southwest where they built Camp Floyd, and remained until 1861.


Ironically, with the outbreak of the US Civil War, a large proportion of the officers sent to "put down the Mormon rebellion" joined the Confederacy. General Albert Sidney Johnston himself, the commander of the Utah Expedition, led the Confederate troops at the important Battle of Shiloh in 1862, in which he was killed.


More humiliating for the US Army was the realization, over the course of their entire stay in Utah, that the “Mormons” were making a handsome profit off their presence.


Indeed, in aggregate the territory gained at least ten million dollars in hard currency – much of it in gold – during the army's 1858-61 "siege" of the alleged "dictator" Brigham Young and his rebellious flock. It was a HUGE windfall about which officers often complained bitterly in their communications to colleagues and family “back east”.


When the last troops left Camp Floyd, they burned or otherwise destroyed virtually everything of value which they could not carry with them – in order that the "damned Mormons" could not profit a farthing more than they already had from "Buchanan's Blunder".


Utah remained assiduously neutral during the US Civil War and continued to profit from traffic moving in and out from all points of the compass.


After the war, in 1869, the transcontinental railroad was completed at Promontory Point, on the northern shore of the Great Salt Lake. Rail spurs rapidly connected the entire region to the main line. My great-grandfather and his father both helped construct the grade from Promontory Point to Salt Lake City, which thereafter assumed the moniker of "The Crossroads of the West".


Completion of the Transcontinental Railroad, Promontory Point, Utah, 1869

Now you know a little bit more of “the rest of the story”.


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Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Chinese Crap


Important Note: Since I made this post I've been inundated on Twitter with offended Chinese and other non-Americans who have actually persuaded me that my perspective may very likely be distorted by the fact that high-quality Chinese products are simply not permitted to enter American markets -- and that the design and quality of "Made in China" products sold to Americans are actually dictated by the exogenous parties who order those products to be made precisely as specified -- and at extremely low cost.

I confess I had not previously taken into consideration these realities. To be sure, I probably should have. But it simply didn't occur to me. And when a not-quite one-year-old "Made in China" fan broke on me today ... well, I used the occasion to vent about the other "Made in China" crap I've hated over the years.

That said, I have now come to view matters with greater enlightenment. I hope that, in years to come, true "free trade" can bring the high-quality Chinese products to my search results.

In any case, I'm leaving my post up, because I'm sure many Americans can relate ... and maybe now see things with a more nuanced perspective.

Although it may not be quite as true today as it used to be – at least when it comes to some things – the fact remains that “Made in China” is generally stamped on indisputably mediocre or outright crappy products, guaranteed to be of inferior quality and workmanship, and quite often to simply not work at all  or at least not for very long.


To the extent this perception exists – and I know from decades of first-hand experience that it is justified – the Chinese people should be embarrassed, even ashamed. It’s the kind of perception that could literally require generations to reverse, even long after it ceases to be true – assuming it ever does cease to be true.


The Japanese, on the other hand, have long been known for producing high quality, durable products. Their automobiles, from the 1970s to the present day, have typically been prized by owners around the world for their quality, reliability, and extraordinary durability.


Over the course of my increasingly long life, I have owned a series of five Datsun/Nissan vehicles. Great little cars and trucks. Provided with even a minimum of responsible care, they will provide their owners with 250,000+ miles of reliable service.


The same could be said for Honda and Toyota vehicles, multi-decade-old models of which are still frequently seen plying the roads of America.


Speaking of Honda … you want a small-engine tool or generator, and you want it to always work and last a lifetime? You buy a Honda. Sure, these days you pay a bit of a premium, but it's more than worth it in the long run.


“Made in Japan”, as a general rule, is a mark of high quality and pride of workmanship.


The United States has long-since off-shored the lion’s share of its formerly unparalleled production might. But there are still several things “Made in the USA” that are preferred by the discriminating buyer. America doesn’t make nearly the variety of things it used to, but what it does make is more often than not “best in class”.


“Made in the USA”, as a general rule, is a mark of high quality and pride of workmanship.

The same cannot be said for stuff “Made in China”.


If China really wants to become respected around the globe, I am convinced there is nothing that would achieve that objective faster than them taking it upon themselves, as a people and a nation, to make stuff that everyone desires for its quality, functionality, and durability. Until then, “Made in China” will remain a hiss and a byword, and the universal synonym for “cheap crap”.

Tip Jar

All Dressed Up and Nowhere to Go


 Twenty minutes prior to Nancy Pelosi stepping onto the tarmac in Taipei today, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued the following ominous statement:


"Pelosi's visit to Taiwan will be a gross interference in China's internal affairs, and will lead to very serious events and dire consequences."


What, if anything, this will actually translate into in terms of concrete actions remains to be seen.


In recent days, the Chinese moved upwards of 40 fully equipped combat brigades to Fujian Province on the mainland side of the Taiwan Strait.


Additionally, they put countless naval assets to sea, including two carrier groups.


This represents the expenditure of probably several billion dollars.


Also in recent days we have witnessed largely unprecedented aggressive rhetoric from CCP luminaries, PLA mouthpieces, and Chinese state-controlled media.


Many western observers were quick to breathlessly assert that “China doesn’t bluff.”


I’m dubious there is a valid historical basis for that statement. But if nothing of real significance happens in the wake of Pelosi’s provocative visit to Taiwan, then I think we’ll have to conclude they indeed do bluff, and in this case the US called it.


The huge cult of empire propagandists is already crowing about the Chinese apparently “backing down” from a conflict with the US. I believe it is likely premature to reach this conclusion, but for the time being that certainly appears to be the case.


The PLA has now somewhat anticlimactically announced military exercises in the area from August 4 – 7.


That’s it?


We all got dressed up for the Apocalypse Ball, and all we get is a couple regiments of soldiers in crisply pressed uniforms and freshly shined boots parading past with polished bayonets pointing to the sky?


Amid all the bellicose announcements, flashy propaganda videos of Chinese military hardware in action, and theatrically orchestrated public movements of huge numbers of troops and equipment, can the ruling regime in Beijing really afford now to just do … NOTHING?


Maybe so.


But somehow I doubt it. To me it seems far too much domestic and international political capital has already been invested in this confrontation upon which the focus of the entire populace of China – and the rest of the world – has been fixated for several days now.


In the midst of an already well-in-progress domestic financial and economic collapse, and now what appears to be international-scale humiliation, can Xi Jinping’s aspirations for continued dictatorial reign and cultural immortality survive the domestic and global realization that this was all a big nothing burger?


Will the host of Chinese “princelings” eyeing Xi’s throne just bite their tongues and bow their heads submissively as Xi makes his pitch for extended rule?


Will the Chinese people flood the streets to express their collective dismay that, not only are their economic prospects suddenly looking grim, but that, yet again, the western colonialists have knocked them to the ground, thrown sand in their face, stolen their girlfriend, and walked away untouched? Or will they obediently stay inside, mutter something about “biding their time” and reassure themselves that winning a war without fighting is the genius of the “Chinese way”?


For now it appears to most of the world that China invited us all to the “party of the year”, but forgot to book a band and supply the open bar. Now everyone is loitering about with confused looks on their faces, checking their watches, and wondering if the night is still young enough to get a few drinks at the smoky blues joint on the outskirts of town.


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